Tributes have poured in for forces sweetheart Dame Vera Lynn who stirred the hearts of millions with songs and a personality that brought hope and inspiration during the darkest days of the Second World War.
Decades later her name is as enduring as that of Sir Winston Churchill as a figure who played a huge role in keeping up the spirits of a civilian population suffering under the Blitz and the troops training at home and fighting overseas.
Dame Vera, a humanitarian and entertainer, saw something of a resurgence during the current coronavirus pandemic with the Queen using her words ‘We’ll meet again’ to inspire modern Britain during this time of struggle.
Celebrities, politicians and charities lined up today to pay tribute to Dame Vera, a humanitarian and entertainer beloved by the nation, who has died aged 103.
Sir Cliff Richard said: ‘Dame Vera Lynn was truly an icon. She was held in such high esteem and my best, and favourite, memory was sharing a performance with her in front of Buckingham Palace for the VE Day celebrations in 1995.
Dame Vera Lynn with Prince Charles attending a reception for the ‘Not Forgotten Association’ at St James’s Palace in central London in December 2006
‘We walked to the stage through a crowd of survivors of that war, and they were reaching out to touch and get a smile from Vera.
‘I heard the words … ‘God bless you’ … ‘Thank you’ … ‘We love you’ for their very own Forces’ Sweetheart! A great singer, a patriotic woman and a genuine icon.
‘I am happy to use the words called out on the wonderful day. Vera, thank you, God bless you, and I loved you too.
‘Rest in a very deserved peace.’
Lyricist Sir Tim Rice described Dame Vera as ‘one of the greatest ever British popular singers, not just because of her immaculate voice, warm, sincere, instantly recognisable and musically flawless’.
He continued: ‘She will be remembered just as affectionately for her vital work in the Second World War and for her own charitable foundations in the 75 years since.
‘A link with more certain times has been irrevocably broken.’
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said her ‘charm and magical voice entranced and uplifted our country in some of our darkest hours’.
Flight Lieutenant William L B Walker and Dame Vera Lynn outside the Churchill War Rooms, in London on 20 August 2010
Remembering the singer known as the Forces’ Sweetheart, he said: ‘Her voice will live on to lift the hearts of generations to come.’
The Royal British Legion paid tribute to Dame Vera in a statement posted on Twitter, writing: ‘We are incredibly sad to hear of the passing of Dame Vera Lynn, an unforgettable British icon, symbol of hope to the Armed Forces community past and present, and much loved longstanding Legion supporter.
‘Our thoughts are with her loved ones.’
Actress Miriam Margolyes said: ‘Dame Vera never lost her reality. The voice like a bell was a gift, which she shared so generously and bravely.
‘But the magic was that her personality was genuine, open, warm. Meeting her was one of the high points of my life. She looked at you and saw you. And connected.
‘There is no one in our lives, except the Queen, who had the power to connect a nation.
‘For that, she will be remembered & always with love.’
Tenor Alfie Boe, who sang with Dame Vera on a new recording of her song We’ll Meet Again, tweeted: ‘Rest in peace Dame Vera Lynn.
‘Truly a national treasure, and this is such sad news to hear, especially at this time when her iconic song and spirit touched the nation.
‘It was a real pleasure to sing with her – an honour I will treasure forever.’
Brideshead Revisited actor Anthony Andrews paid tribute saying: ‘Dame Vera was an indomitable, distinguished, courageous and superlative artist from a very young age.
‘An icon whose work lifted the hearts and souls of the British people and significantly contributed to victory in our darkest days.
‘My father (Stanley Andrews, an arranger and conductor for the BBC) adored the purity of her voice and we still have the tear-stained music copy, as he wrote her arrangements he could hear her wonderful soaring tone.
‘Personally, I will never forget the unannounced arrival of Her Majesty the Queen at the celebration of Vera’s 100th birthday at the London Palladium; a perfect and fitting tribute.
‘It was the greatest joy and a privilege to have known her.’
Theatre director Roger Redfarn, who had been friends with Dame Vera since since the early 1970s and was one of her neighbours in the village of Ditchling in east Sussex, said: ‘The world knows of her great voice that through the good and bad times has thrilled millions.
‘My own father firmly believed that the Second World War was won by Sir Winston Churchill and Vera Lynn.
‘As a friend she was the warmest and kindest of people.
‘I never saw her angry or say a bad word of anyone, people would stop her in the street and she always found time for them.
‘She cared particularly about our armed forces, ‘her boys’ as she called them.
‘Her work for charity, especially young people with cerebral palsy was tireless and inspiring.
‘There will never be anyone like her again.’
Singer Katherine Jenkins said she could not find the words to explain how much she ‘adored this wonderful lady’
She added: ‘Her voice brought comfort to millions in their darkest hours, her songs filled the nation’s hearts with hope, and her emotive performances, whether home or abroad, then or now, helped to get us through.
‘It was she who chose the sentiments of her songs – she knew instinctively what people needed to hear, how to rally the morale and her spirit and strength created the soundtrack of a generation.
‘There will never be another Dame Vera Lynn. Forces’ Sweetheart and our sweetheart. An icon. A legend. An inspiration. My mentor and my friend. I will miss you greatly and I know we’ll meet again some sunny day.’
Pilar Cloud, executive manager of the Dame Vera Lynn Children’s Charity, said: ‘We have been extremely honoured to have had Dame Vera Lynn as our president and she was always a very passionate and wonderful ambassador for this charity.
‘Moreover, she has always been hands on, enjoying participating in sessions, singing songs with the children and setting the tone with real determination to ensure that ‘her families’ were never forgotten.
‘She is very fondly regarded by all of the staff and families, and will be greatly missed by so many people.’